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Senator Crowell: Special Session??? – Part 1

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion from Jefferson City politicians suggesting the General Assembly will be called back into a special legislative session focused on “economic development.” In fact, Senate and House leadership have spent much of July in a backroom in St. Louis cutting a deal that is short on economic development, short on tax credit reform but long on government handouts to campaign donors and special interests in the name of “economic development” and “job growth.” The General Assembly usually meets January through May, but for extraordinary reasons, the Governor or General Assembly can call itself into session to pass what it deems as legislation that cannot wait until January.

Senate and House leadership have recently announced a deal they cut behind closed doors in a non-transparent inside job, which is now being pushed to be passed in a special session. This back room deal must not be allowed to pass. But let me be clear, there is a path to do right by the Missouri taxpayer but it will take you demanding that Jefferson City politicians put you first instead of their fat cat campaign donors. It is my hope that together we are successful.

In this series we will discuss where we are as to a possible special session, what is wrong with leaderships’ backroom deal, and what special interest provisions must be eliminated and how we move forward with an economic development bill that puts Missouri first, not connected special interests and lobbyists. There are several issues at play; Aerotropolis tax credits for St. Louis Lambert Airport, Historic Preservation tax credits, Low Income Housing tax credits, Brownfield tax credits, Land Assemblage tax credits, and Circuit Breaker Property Tax Relief tax credits for owners and renters of real property. We will discuss all of these issues and the changes that must be made to leaderships’ backroom deal. You will probably learn more then you want to know, but it is vital that you know what is going on with your hard earned tax dollars in Jefferson City.

The first area is Aerotropolis. Aerotropolis is an idea conceived by Greg Lindsey in his book Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next and is defined as an “international trade zone that uses multiple modes of transportation to move goods.” In order to create this trade zone, a large amount of warehouse space is needed to store products and this is where the state is being asked to spend your tax dollars. Supporters of Aerotropolis in St. Louis claim that in order to get investors to build this warehouse space and then to attract air carriers to St. Louis, Missourians must give out $360 million in tax credits to developers and the airport.

Really. Sources say that the advent of the effort to open the Aerotropolis didn’t even include taxpayer subsidies.  The push for taxpayer was later added by Missouri Legislators, certain Mayors and County Executives as well as well connected cronies.

Aerotropolis though, as written in leaderships’ bill, is not about economic growth but is a handout to rich campaign contributors. Requirements, such as for a developer to qualify for Aerotropolis tax credits, warehouses must be built on 100 contiguous acres of land or in specially designated areas mean that only a select few developers who donate massive amounts to politicians, could qualify for these tax credits. If that wasn’t enough, according to real estate company CB Richard Ellis, there is currently over 18 million square feet of vacant warehouse space already developed in St. Louis and no need for new warehouse space. However, as currently written in leaderships’ bill, 80 percent of Aerotropolis tax credits will go to new construction, rewarding the politically connected developers while hurting business owners trying to lease their existing space; this must be changed. The leaderships’ bill even gives the Mayor of St. Louis and St. Louis County Executive the power to be the gatekeeper to these state tax credits. The Mayor of St. Louis City and Executive of St. Louis County must not be allowed to spend state dollars unilaterally without any accountability or oversight. Finally, the leaderships’ bill is not tied to an increase in international trade. Strong clawbacks and taxpayer protections must be included in order to ensure that Aerotropolis tax credits do not become a taxpayer funded “Air Bridge to Nowhere” boondoggle.

As you know, I have concerns with awarding any new tax credits while cutting education budgets in Missouri. As conceived by Senate and House leadership, Aerotropolis tax credits are a special interest giveaway to fat cat campaign donors. But, if Aerotropolis is going to be about true economic development, we must make the changes we’ve discussed. And if Senate and House leadership fight us and fight the elimination of these special interest provisions, then they must be defeated as well.

Filibuster anyone? McFly?

Now is the time for government to live within its means, not spend money it does not have by authorizing give away tax credits not tied to performance. Together we have an opportunity to do right by the Missouri taxpayer but it will take you, the bosses of the politicians, to demand the right legislation is passed, if there is a special session. This can be done by taking back our state government and holding Senate and House leadership accountable; shining a bright light on the problems with their backroom deal and watching them scatter like cockroaches from their current position. Again, I need your help holding these politicians accountable. They are counting on your silence. In the coming weeks we will examine further the issues and changes needed for a taxpayer-first special session.

It was suggested to me that if one of our fine Conservative Senators would plan to Filibuster the bill, we may not have to pay for a special session this year.  Unless there is some serious tax credit reform on the block, I have to agree that forgoing the special session would be the best option.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2011 in Free Market, Taxes

 

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Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 4)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

(Read Part 2 here)

(Read Part 3 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at Missouri’s budget numbers and at the Jefferson City politicians’ willingness to ask our children to shoulder these economic times with cuts to their schools. Yet, even after two years of deep cuts to education and with terrifying forecast numbers coming in, the battle to protect our children’s future educational opportunities is just starting.

Over the past two years Missouri has not fully funded the foundation formula for K-12 education. We failed to fund it by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the foundation formula and state law. This is on top of $60 million over the last three years in cuts to transportation funding, another $37 million cut deleting Missouri’s career ladder program and $10 million in withholds and cuts to early childhood’s Parents as Teachers program.

The cuts were not just to K -12 funding but also to higher education. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges have gone without $306.8 million from just 2010.

While education has seen hundreds of millions in cuts, as I pointed out in last week’s column, tax credits are one area that has seen sky-high increases. Over the last 12 years, tax credits have grown 407.9% to $521 million in 2010 and an estimated $698.4 million in 2011. Now, in the midst of not being able to fund what I believe is our state’s number one priority, education, the Jefferson City politicians want to give away more money in tax credits. They do not believe we have spent enough on them and are asking for even more for their campaign contributors.

Currently legislative leaders are pushing for a special session in order to award new tax credits for a St. Louis development called Aerotropolis. The plan for Aerotropolis is to give out $360 million in entitlement tax credits over 15 years to offset landing fees and build cargo facilities near Lambert Airport in St. Louis with the hopes of creating a hub that would attract international trade from areas like China.

The idea is based on a book by journalist Greg Lindsay who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week “that St. Louis’ plan won’t work.” He continued that “we can’t generate enough cargo traffic to justify a major, long-lasting commitment from any airline, Chinese or otherwise.”

The reason for Lindsay’s skepticism of this becoming an economic engine and instead a waste of your hard earned dollars is for two reasons. First, St. Louis is late to the game as airports in the Midwest, such as Chicago and Memphis have already established the cargo capacity and trade relations for what supporters say these giveaways will create. Second, St. Louis has the highest landing fees among the Midwest airports they would be competing against (as the chart to the left shows).

With Lambert Airport being $1.4 billion in debt, St. Louis wants state tax payers to bail them out of debt by offsetting their high tax to land at the airport. In my opinion, this bailout is just as wasteful as the $100 million in tax credits passed in last year’s special session for Ford, which have yet to create one new job. Developers know this will not be a financial success, otherwise they would move forward with Aerotropolis without government subsidies.

The special interests will take your money and add it to their wallets if this passes as proposed. The Jefferson City politicians again have decided it is time to give more of your hard earned money to their campaign contributors and education will suffer if we don’t stop them.

In the Senate this past legislative session, we passed needed reforms to tax credits and protected education in Missouri. Provisions passed in HB 116 would have capped the amount of tax credits that can be issued each year, such as for the ballooned low-income housing and historic preservation. Renters, who were not paying property tax, would have no longer received a property tax credit, saving the state $57 million dollars a year. New tax credits, like the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), would have been, as I have been calling for, subject to appropriations. And several performance-based credits were consolidated so we can tangibly see the outcomes of our investment while eliminating those tax credits that were not providing a return on investment to the state. The reforms in HB 116 would have saved Missouri taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next 15 years. House leaders though were more focused on their next election; protecting their campaign contributors and the special interests and killed these common sense reforms. They prevented this sweeping reform bill from being passed and now want more new tax credits and less reform.

Cuts to education jeopardize our children’s future. Missouri’s priority should not be in rewarding campaign contributing special interests, but should instead be the full funding of all aspects of education. That is why I oppose a special session that creates new tax credits without meaningful reforms.

There are 18,000,000 Sq Ft of unused warehouse space near the St. Louis airport.  Yet, certain Missouri legislators and Governor Jay Nixon want to give away $360,000,000 of your tax dollars to build more unnecessary warehouse space.

Contact your Senator and Representative today to tell them that you are firmly against this boondoggle.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Taxes

 

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Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 3)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

(Read Part 2 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

As part of our look into Missouri’s current budget situation, we previously examined where we are, where we are headed and some of the factors that have put us in this situation. In my opinion, the politicians have failed to act and instead pushed Missouri’s budget deficit off to the future. Because of the situation Missouri is in, now is the time for leaders to enact real reforms that will make sure the spending of your tax dollars are in line with our values.

One area where Missouri can reform is in the process of awarding a large number of tax credits at the cost of cuts to education. Politicians always say education is their number one priority, yet their actions show a different truth. They continue to show tax credits are their number one priority by continuing to increase the amount of tax credits given out by 407.9% over the last 12 years. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability that would otherwise be due to the state. This means that every dollar that is given away in a tax credit is a dollar that our state government must replace by increasing taxes or making cuts in current programs; and taking more of your hard earned money is not an option.

The state offers many tax credits for a diverse list of causes, including historic preservation, low-income housing, livestock breeding, and business development. But the popularity of tax credits can often be traced to the pockets of big businesses and special interests. These special interests are well represented by lobbyists in the halls of the Capitol who convince legislators that special interest tax credits create jobs or enhance economic development when all they really do is line the pockets of their beneficiaries.

One of the biggest offenders of using Missouri’s scarce resources are the developers receiving the Low Income Housing Tax Credits. This program provides federal and state tax credits to investors where, each year for 10 years, these tax credits can be sold to raise equity to construct or acquire and rehabilitate affordable rental housing. Low Incoming Housing Tax Credits though, are, as a 2008 report by the Missouri Auditor called it, “costly” and “inefficient.” The audit showed that only 35 cents for every dollar in tax credits go to development costs while the remaining 65 cents go to investor needs. The same auditor’s report also criticized the selection process of not documenting how projects are selected; suggesting that political influence impacts the selection of Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

I believe it is this political influence that made Missouri # 2 in the nation in 2009 for Low Income Housing Tax Credits ($106 million) and #1 in the nation for Historic Preservation Tax Credits ($186 million). At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Missouri is 45th in per capita funding of higher education and 32nd in per capita funding for K-12. I believe this spending is backwards and does not represent our priorities.

In Missouri, the method by which we set Missouri’s priorities in spending your tax dollars is in the appropriation process. Through this process, we ask each of the state’s expenses to stand in line before your representatives in the General Assembly; requiring them to demonstrate why, with limited resources, they should be funded over others. The problem with Missouri’s current tax credit system is the politically connected who receive tax credits, cut to the front of the line, receiving their $521 million in 2010 first, without ever coming before your elected representatives. Then, after waiting in line, when education finally reached the front of the line, the politicians had to tell teachers and students, sorry, we don’t have the money to fund our educational needs and underfunded K-12 funding by $23.8 million.

This is why as part of protecting educational opportunities; we must incorporate fundamental reform to Missouri’s tax credit system. My plan is to subject tax credits to the appropriations process. This way, instead of playing favorites by being able to cut ahead of the line, tax credits will be made to stand in line like every other state expenditure. In this process, your elected representatives will have the chance to look at all the things we spend your tax dollars on and prioritize accordingly. It also creates a transparent process for developers to be held accountable for a return on investment for receiving your hard earned tax dollars.

I believe we need to reform tax credits, not spend more on them through the creation of new ones. But sadly, House leaders disagree. In next week’s column, I will share with you the coming battle to protect our children’s future educational opportunities versus giving away your hard earned tax dollars in tax credits to politicians’ campaign contributors.

Another great place to start is in the waste at MODot.  It’s a stunning waste of money to put up signs telling me that they are widening the road on I-55 between Barnhart and Festus (and other places throughout the state) when it’s obvious that they are working on the road.

It takes just 8 of those signs to wipe out the entirety of my yearly Income Tax contributions to the state coffers.  How many ‘citizen years’ do you think MODot wastes on the fancy new digital signs that are now lining the Interstates and tributaries… …that generally say, “Buckle Your Seat Belts”

And, these are just the most blatant and obvious wastes in the department.

Each expenditure throughout all state departments must be gauged on how many citizens must work all year long to pay for the item with their sales and income taxes!

That is the appropriations process we need!

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Conservative, Taxes

 

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Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 2)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

As part of our look into Missouri’s current budget situation, we previously examined where we are, where we are headed and some of the factors that have put us in this situation. In my opinion, the politicians have failed to act and instead pushed Missouri’s budget deficit off to the future. The past two annual budgets have been built on hundreds of millions of one-time federal stabilization and stimulus dollars, which are now gone. And while maintaining inflated state spending levels using these one-time federal bailout dollars, the state still spent more than it had.

In 2009, Missouri saw a revenue decline of -6.9% ($585 million) followed with another revenue decline in 2010 of -9.1% ($676 million). And while this past year, 2011, there was a modest gain of 5.93% ($401.9 million) from 2010, we are still $827.7 million below the 2008 high-water mark in revenues.

With these revenue declines as a warning, the state took limited steps to right size government to match revenues. In the past two sessions, the General Assembly:

  • Passed reforms to the pension plans covering Missouri’s state employees and judges. Through the establishment of a new benefit tier for state employees and judges hired on or after January 1, 2011, pension reform legislation brought these Missouri pension plans into line with current economic realities and changes in the demographics of state employees. These reforms will save taxpayers more than $650 million over the next 10 years.
  • Ended the free printing of State Manuals, known as the Blue Book, and stopped providing judges and General Assembly member’s free volumes of Missouri State Statutes saving taxpayers $1.7 million every two years.
  • Merged Missouri’s Water Patrol and Highway Patrol into one law enforcement agency. With one law enforcement agency, taxpayer dollars were used more efficiently by deleting redundant systems and minimizing equipment and buildings being duplicated by both agencies, saving taxpayers an estimated $900,000 a year.

But those limited steps were not and are not enough. Even combined with $2.851 billion in one-time Federal Stabilization funds from 2009 to 2012 and another $1.861 billion in Federal Stimulus funds, Missouri did not fully fund the foundation formula for K-12 education by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the state foundation formula, in the last three years as well as over $60 million in cuts to transportation funding. Furthermore, Missouri’s funding for higher education is also being cut. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges will have to find ways, most likely through tuition and fee increases, to cover an overall reduction in higher education funding of $306.8 million from the high-water mark of 2010. The politicians have said to you that education is their number one priority, but they have done very little in Jefferson City to prove it.

Get this… …the Missouri Legislature has run a deficit balanced the budget over the 4 years based on Federal funds.  In other words, the budget was not balanced based on Missouri’s tax and spending.  This is the same line that Republicans and Democrats tell you when they say they balanced the budget in 2000-2001.

I believe we should not be asking our children to sacrifice their educational opportunities because Missouri government cannot find ways to spend your hard earned tax dollars more efficiently and effectively. The past three years have been a perfect opportunity for leaders to take bold actions in government spending that would have protected education from these cuts. Instead, the politicians in Jefferson City failed because they have been more focused on their next election and their campaign contributors than with the realities of today.

As we continue to discuss Missouri’s budget, I do not just want to point to missed opportunities. I also want to highlight future opportunities to make real reforms so that educational opportunities to our children can be protected. In the coming weeks, I will share with you commonsense reforms that will put Missouri’s spending in line with our values. The answer is not found in raising taxes, or going into debt through bonding or even using the state’s rainy day fund. The answer is found by taking an honest approach to our priorities in how your money is spent and by passing legislative reforms that do not put special interests before our children’s educational opportunities. Now is the time for leaders to lead so that our children’s future does not continue to suffer the cost of our state’s backward spending priorities.

Although I think there is plenty of room to reduce bureaucracy and spending in Missouri’s Education System, I look forward to Senator Crowell’s future thoughts on the way to balance the budget without reducing education spending!

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Conservative, Taxes

 

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Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

As headline after headline in the news is dominated with stories on government’s excessive spending and its rising deficits, I, like many across Missouri am concerned with Missouri’s long-term financial well being.  The question becomes, do we want to make the decisions now to fix the problem or ignore it and be destroyed by it in the future.

I believe our current budget situation has developed in large part because the politicians in Jefferson City have forgotten that they won an election to lead today by making decisions but instead have chose to focus on their next election by catering to special interests and campaign contributors.  The past few years gave plenty of warning that it was time for the state to live within its means.  In 2009, Missouri saw a revenue decline of -6.9% ($585 million) followed with another revenue decline in 2010 of -9.1% ($676 million).  And through May 2011 state revenue has grown only 2.6%.  The problem with this growth is that when spending your money, the General Assembly spent expecting 3.6% growth or $70 million more than they really had.

As revenues have dropped, the politicians have failed to lead and make the decisions to balance Missouri’s budget, instead, opting to push the looming budget deficit off to the future.  The past two years the General Assembly has passed budgets built on hundreds of millions of one-time federal stabilization and stimulus dollars, which are now gone.  And while maintaining inflated state spending levels using one-time federal bailout dollars, the state still spent more than it had because revenues decreased below estimates.  By spending more money than it had, the budget has been out of balance forcing Governor Nixon to withhold dollars from vital state programs, specifically from education.

So, even though history gave politicians a clear indication of what was to come, the General Assembly again this year decided to put off decision making.  This year, the General Assembly passed a $23.2 billion budget which includes $400 million in one-time federal stabilization funds.  The budget also assumes that state revenues will grow at 4% next year, which is $70 million more than Missouri’s revenues have historically grown.  If Missouri does not exceed its historical pattern of growth, the Governor will at the very least have to withhold or veto $154 million just to balance the out of balance budget politicians gave him.

The out of balance budget became real two weeks ago when Governor Nixon was forced to withhold and veto $57 million from what the General Assembly appropriated.  Unfortunately, because the General Assembly failed to address Missouri’s budget shortfalls this year, the Governor chose to balance the budget through cuts and withholds to education.  Because politicians failed to act, Missouri students will face steeper tuition and fees for higher education.  K-12 schools, which are already facing budget short falls because politicians did not fully fund the foundation formula, also will now have to cut classroom dollars to transport students to and from school.

Missouri’s day of reckoning will come when the General Assembly works to pass next year’s budget.  This year’s budget used $155 million from last year to spend in this year and will not be available next year.  And based on recent history, Senate Appropriations expects mandatory expenses to increase approximately $200 million for the next year’s budget.  These factors combine to create a forecasted budget gap next year of approximately $755 million.

Liberals in the state and even some Republicans believe we have a “revenue crisis” and as Representative Mary Still (D-Columbia) laid out in a recent op-ed in the Columbia Tribune, their solution is to raise cigarette, internet sales, business, and personal taxes.  Calling for tax increases is wrong.  The problem is not that Missouri’s politicians do not have enough of your money to spend; the problem is they have lacked the courage to prioritize where to use your limited resources and cut spending in other areas, like curbing the redistribution of wealth through state authorized tax credits.

Over the next few weeks I will share with you how we got to this point and then present the opportunities leaders in Jefferson City have to reform government so that it lives within its means.  We shouldn’t and don’t have to raise taxes; we shouldn’t and don’t have to go into debt and bond; and we shouldn’t and don’t have to tap the state’s rainy day fund.  Now is the time for true leaders to take a long look at where we are, where we are headed, and what must be done to ensure that your tax dollars are used effectively and efficiently.  If politicians are serious about putting education first, this series will lay out what we still need to do to protect our children’s future.

Missouri, 49 other states, and the Federal Government must stop budgeting based on these pie-in-the-sky growth assumptions. A budget built on conservative estimates will breed greater citizen satisfaction and reduce the number of times our Representatives must anger their constituents when cutting back to revenue reality.

Senator Jason Crowell represents the 27th District of Missouri covering all (or portions) of Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, Perry and Scott counties.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Conservative, Taxes

 

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Koster Kicks-Off MO Atty General Campaign

Attorney General Chris Koster kicked off his 2012 campaign as the incumbent for the Missouri Attorney General job…

…I mean…

“Attorney General Chris Koster begrudginly filed a federal appeals court document in support of a lawsuit brought by Florida and 25 other states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law enacted by President Barack Obama last year.”

h/t mopns.com

The only way this makes sense is that his pre-election polling has determined that he won’t keep his seat unless he joins the suit against ObamaCare.

Ya think?

  • Countless Missourians have called and written begging him to join the suit.
  • The Missouri Legislature passed a resolution asking him to join the suit
  • Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder filed his own suit
  • Missourians overwhelmingly passed the Healthcare Freedom Act in August 2010

…and NOW, Chris Koster has decided to join in?!?!  Is it just me?  Or, is anyone else suspect of his timing here?

Okay, Mr. Koster, if you’ve decided that you DO believe in the U.S. Constitution, how about filling suit against the 4th-amendment-busting-sexual-assault going on daily at Lambert and Kansas City Airports?  Have you not noticed that’s unconstitutional too?

h/t komonews.com

.

Considering some text from the rest of the story, I feel his support is pretty halfhearted:

“He also said mandates for certain businesses to provide insurance to their employees would be allowed under the Constitution’s power for Congress to regulate commerce.

Koster also outlined several alternatives under which the insurance mandate could be upheld — though he described them as challenging interpretations. Those include allowing states to opt in or out of the federal health care law, upholding the penalty under Congress’ power to levy taxes or allowing an exception to the historical understanding of the commerce clause restrictions that is narrowly tailored for health care.”

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Constitution, Election

 

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Missouri And Article V Consitutional Convention

There has been much ado in the Missouri Conservative E-Mail Threads during the past few months over the Constitutional Convention.  So great was the discussion that a debate was held on March 1st between Phyllis Shlafly and Dave Roland.  The debate was moderated by local radio host Gina Loudon.

Much of that debate has sprung from the current activities in the Missouri General Assembly where they are debating a resolution to call for a Constitutional Convention.  Under HCR 19 Missouri would allow for “the proposal and ratification of an amendment to said Constitution which shall provide that an increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the Legislatures of the separate States:”

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the amendments convention contemplated by this application shall be entirely focused upon and exclusively limited to the subject matter of proposing for ratification an amendment to the Constitution providing that an increase in the federal debt requires approval from a majority of the Legislatures of the separate States…”

In 1983, the Missouri General Assembly approved a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments — specifically an amendment to Balance the Federal Budget.  I had heard of the 1983 Resolution, but I had never seen — until today: SCR 3.  Thank you to Senator Brian Nieves and Jessica Johnson of his staff for forwarding a copy of the Resolution.

In this case, there was a stipulation: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this application shall be deemed null and void, rescinded and of no effect in the event that such convention not be limited to such specific and exclusive purpose…”

The Constitution - h/t Logan Public Library, Logan, UT

Considering, the Constitution limits what the Federal Government can do, Article V tells Congress that it “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments”

I don’t see anywhere in that text an option for Congress to stipulate or list the subject, topic, or number of amendments that may be proposed and submitted to the States for ratification.  And considering the 1983 Missouri Resolution specifically voids itself if the subject is not limited to a balanced budget amendment, I can only surmise that the Resolution is already void.  How can Congress call a Convention for Proposing Amendments when the execution of that ‘call’ immediately voids the approval of one of the States’ call for that Convention?

For the current consideration of HCR 19, I do not see such a self-nullifying clause.  There is a clause specifying that the Convention shall only consider the subject of requiring State approval to increase the Federal debt.

Does this clause allow Congress to call for the convention to Propose Amendments?  Yes, the Missouri Resolution allows for a call of a Constitutional Convention to Propose Amendments.

But, once the Convention is called, and since the Missouri Resolution does not automatically void itself, what (legally) stops a delegate from California from offering an Amendment to Repeal the 2nd Amendment?  Congress can’t stop it.  The delegates can’t stop it.  The States can’t stop it.  What can?  Nothing!

And therein lies the danger, conundrum, and catch-22 of the Constitutional Convention.  If you open that can of worms, you may be opening Pandora’s Box.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2011 in Constitution

 

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